Mother Irini

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Mother Irini
Personal details
Birth nameFawzia
Born(1936-02-09)9 February 1936
Girga, Egypt
Died31 October 2006
Cairo, Egypt
BuriedConvent of St. Mercurius (Abu-Sefein); Cairo, Egypt
Nationality Egyptian
Denomination Coptic Orthodox Christian

Mother Irini (Coptic : ⲧⲉⲛⲙⲁⲩ Ⲓⲣⲏⲛⲏ, lit.  ''Tenmav (Coptic for “Our Mother”) Irene''; Arabic : امنا ايريني, lit.  ''Umina (Our Mother in Arabic) Irini''; 9 February 1936 Girga – 31 October 2006 Cairo) was the Coptic Abbess of the St. Philopateer Mercurius’ (Abu Sefein, “of the two swords”) Convent in Old Cairo, Egypt and an influential figure in the Coptic Christian community of Egypt.

Coptic language Latest stage of the Egyptian language

Coptic or Coptic Egyptian, is the latest stage of the Egyptian language, a northern Afro-Asiatic language spoken in Egypt until at least the 17th century as an official language. Egyptian began to be written in the Coptic alphabet, an adaptation of the Greek alphabet with the addition of six or seven signs from Demotic to represent Egyptian sounds the Greek language did not have, in the 2nd century BC.

Literal translation, direct translation, or word-for-word translation is a translation of a text done by translating each word separately, without looking at how the words are used together in a phrase or sentence.

Old Cairo

Old Cairo, also known as "Historic Cairo", or "Islamic Cairo", is a part of Cairo, Egypt, which pre-dates the Fatimid city of Cairo, founded in 969 A.D.


Tamav was consecrated as the head of the convent on 15 October 1962 (Babah 5th 1679 according to the Coptic Calendar). According to some accounts, Tamav was visited by, and communicated with, St. Philopatyr Mercurius and St. Anthony the Great. Tamav is credited with numerous miracles, while alive and after her death. At least six of her books have been translated in English. [ citation needed ]

Anthony the Great Christian saint, monk, and hermit

Saint Anthony or Antony, was a Christian monk from Egypt, revered since his death as a saint. He is distinguished from other saints named Anthony such as Anthony of Padua, by various epithets of his own: Anthony the Great, Anthony of Egypt, Antony the Abbot,Anthony of the Desert,Anthony the Anchorite, and Anthony of Thebes. For his importance among the Desert Fathers and to all later Christian monasticism, he is also known as the Father of All Monks. His feast day is celebrated on 17 January among the Orthodox and Catholic churches and on Tobi 22 in the Coptic calendar used by the Coptic Church.


Tamav was born on 9 February 1936 in Girga, a small town in Upper Egypt in Sohag Governorate. She was the eldest of seven children born to wealthy Coptic Orthodox Christian parents. Tamav was baptised as a Christian in the Monastery of Saint Shenoudah the Archimandrite in Sohaq.

Upper Egypt strip of land on the Nile valley between Nubia and Lower Egypt

Upper Egypt is the strip of land on both sides of the Nile that extends between Nubia and downriver (northwards) to Lower Egypt.

Sohag City in Egypt

Sohag, also spelled as Sawhāj, Suhag and Suhaj, is a city on the west bank of the Nile in Egypt. It has been the capital of Sohag Governorate since 1960, before which the capital was Girga and the name of the governorate was Girga Governorate. It also included Esna Governorate.

Baptism Christian rite of admission and adoption, almost invariably with the use of water

Baptism is a Christian rite of admission and adoption, almost invariably with the use of water, into Christianity. It may be performed by sprinkling or pouring water on the head, or by immersing in water either partially or completely. The synoptic gospels recount that John the Baptist baptised Jesus. Baptism is considered a sacrament in most churches, and as an ordinance in others. Baptism is also called christening, although some reserve the word "christening" for the baptism of infants. It has also given its name to the Baptist churches and denominations.

Abu-Sefain monastery

On 6 October 1954, Tamav became a nun in the Convent of Abu-Sefain in Cairo at age 18, the youngest nun there.

As with other nuns in her order, Tamav took a vow of lifetime poverty On 15 October 1962 Tamav was ordained the abbess of Abu-Sefain. Her life was to be focused instead on vigil, prayer, fasting and struggle, purity, poverty, solitude and stillness. [1]

Vigil Period of intentional sleeplessness

A vigil, from the Latin vigilia meaning wakefulness, is a period of purposeful sleeplessness, an occasion for devotional watching, or an observance. The Italian word vigilia has become generalized in this sense and means "eve".

Fasting is the willing abstinence or reduction from some or all food, drink, or both, for a period of time. An absolute fast or dry fasting is normally defined as abstinence from all food and liquid for a defined period. Other fasts may be partially restrictive, limiting only particular foods or substances, or be intermittent.

Poverty State of one who lacks a certain amount of material possessions or money

Poverty is not having enough material possessions or income for a person's needs. Poverty may include social, economic, and political elements.

Work as Abbess

After becoming the abbess of Abu-Sefain, Tamav stated that she had received a vision of Christ and of St Pachomius the Great (292-348 AD), one of founders of the communal life of monks and nuns (cenobeticism). St Pachom allegedly told Tamav to follow the rules of the Pachomian Koinonia (fellowship) in the convent. She then banned all forms of personal property or segregation, and introduced group prayers and meals.

Pachomius the Great Egyptian saint

Saint Pachomius, also known as Pachome and Pakhomius, is generally recognized as the founder of Christian cenobitic monasticism. Coptic churches celebrate his feast day on 9 May, and Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches mark his feast on 15 May or 28 May. In the Lutheran Church, the saint is remembered as a renewer of the church, along with his contemporary, Anthony of Egypt on January 17.

Before Tamav became Abbess, the nuns attended mass and communion in an adjacent church, dedicated to St. Saint Mercurius. Tamav founded St. Mercurius' Church and subsequently founded a second church inside the monastery in honor of the Virgin Mary, on the site where she sat with Jesus during the flight of the Holy Family's flight.

Saint Mercurius Roman soldier and Christian martyr

Mercurius was a Christian saint and a martyr. He was born in the city of Eskentos in Cappadocia, in Eastern Asia Minor.

Holy Family Jesus, Mary and Saint Joseph

The Holy Family consists of the Child Jesus, the Virgin Mary, and Saint Joseph. Veneration of the Holy Family was formally begun in the 17th century by Saint François de Laval, the first bishop of New France, who founded a Confraternity.

Mother Irene popularised the veneration of Saint Mercurius among Coptic Christians. In this sense she is often compared with Pope Kyrillos VI whose name became associated with the Egyptian martyr, St Mena. On Abi Seifein's feasts—celebrating his martyrdom, the coming of his relics to Egypt, and the consecration of the first Coptic church in his name—she would speak to the thousands who gathered about the miracles performed through the intercession of the saint. [1]

In her weekly meetings, Tamav spoke about heaven to her audience, with the intention of conveying to them hope and consolation. Her talks attracted many devotees, and the number of nuns increased under her guidance increased. Some of her nuns became leaders of other convents in Cairo. [1]

Under Tamav's guidance, Abu-Sefain published a book highlighting the contribution of women to monastic and ascetic life. The Angelic Life: The Virgin Mary and Other Virgins in Different Ages (Cairo: Harmony Printing House, 2002), can be regarded as a new historicist reading of the monastic movement, from which perspective it sets the record straight regarding the role played by women in this movement. [1]


After 25 years of ill health, On 31 October 2006 Tamav died. Thousands of mourners queued to pay their last respects to Tamav on the day following her death. [1] At her funeral, Bishop Raphaeil (General Bishop) spoke on behalf of Pope Shenouda III.

In their memorial the nuns at Abu-Sefain described Tamav as their "enlightened mother, mentor, teacher, guide and the lamp whose light would remain for ever". They also expressed their gratitude "for being the daughters of the mother of monasticism in this generation, for having been watered by the fountain of her sacred life and enlightened by the torch of her monastic and spiritual teachings which will remain to guide us until we meet her in heaven". [1]

Miracle and Vision of St. Philopatyr Mercurius

During a time when Mother Irini was abbess of the monastery, the Egyptian military was building roads nearby. Originally, the engineers planned that the highway would be built right next to the monastery. But the Devil tempted them to plan the highway to intersect the monastery, so it was then planned that part of the monastery will be destroyed. The government then claimed the land and started construction.

When Mother Irini heard this, she was deeply sad and prayed to God to find a solution. God then sent St. Philopatyr Mercurius to come to her aid. The saint then said that they will solve this problem by addressing it to the Egyptian President, Hosni Mubarak. Immediately, both Mother Irini and St Philopatyr were teleported to the president's bedroom, where he was sleeping.

When they woke him up, Mubarak was in shock and shouted,"In the name of Allah! How did you come here? The door is closed!" St Philopatyr then said,"By the power of Christ, we can move through locked doors." The President then recognized Mother Irini and said,"Aren't you the Abbess of the St. Philopatyr Monastery? I have seen a picture of you." Mother Irini then answered and said," Yes, they had an article about me in Wadki.(an Egyptian magazine.) Mubarak then asked Mother Irini," Who is that guy with you?" Mother Irini then said," He is the Patron Saint of the monastery, St. Philopatyr Mercurius." Mubarak then asked what they wanted. St Philopatyr then said," Don't come close or lay a hand on the monastery." Mubarak then agreed immediately because he was afraid. St Philopatyr then disappeared and Mother Irini was teleported back to her room in the monastery.

It is unknown if Mubarak converted to Christianity or not. Most Copts suggest otherwise due to the difficulties of converting from Islam to Christianity in Egypt. They are certain, however, that Mubark believes in the Christian faith [2]

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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-10-22. Retrieved 2009-05-02.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) Memorial article for Tamav Ireni, Al-Ahram Weekly on-line, Issue no. 820, 16–22 November 2006. Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875.
  2. "On the East". A Miracle of Great Martyr Mercurius, by Archpriest Pavel Nedosekin accessed 30 Oct 2017